I see that Clarence Thomas is having another go at Anita Hill. Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a man spurned. According to Thomas – in his new book – she was “a mediocre employee” who had a job in the federal government only because he gave her one. She was “touchy” and overreacted to slights, real and imagined. She wasn’t that “demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed.” She was “asked to leave” her job as an associate attorney at the Washington law firm where she worked before going to work for the federal government.
In earlier years I made some unsuccessful sexual overtures at women myself – never anything improper, mind you – but I always forgave the women. Actually, I never blamed them in the first place. Sexual partners should be a matter of free choice and I was skinny and had a funny looking haircut so their refusals always seemed rational to me. Of course, none of them ever tried to keep me off the Supreme Court. I might be ticked off if they did that. But it hasn’t been a big issue yet; an unbroken chain of presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush have kept me off the Court without any help at all from innocent bystanders.
Which is what Anita Hill was: An innocent bystander. Clarence Thomas lied his way on to the Supreme Court.
How do I know that? Several reasons actually but they all boil down to one: For the better part of two decades I have represented women in sexual harassment lawsuits and I have heard Clarence Thomas’ excuses, denials and defenses from hundreds of men. There is no originality in any of them. That is one of the guaranteed qualities of a sexual harasser: A complete lack of originality. The ones I’ve met thought of themselves as decent men but most weren’t. They would have been rapists but they lacked the physical courage for that. They were not people you would want to have to dinner. I suppose the worst thing I ever said about one of them in a trial – after catching him in innummerable lies – was when I turned to a jury and said, “Look at him jurors. Do you really think that if you invited him to your house for dinner, he would help with the dishes?” Sexual harassment, like rape, is about power; not sex, and men who imagine themselves powerful don’t do dishes. Or windows.
Harassers always claim that their victims are “mediocre” employees, hypersensitive to imagined slights, and sexual sluts in disguise out to entrap innocent male supervisors and co-workers. Sometimes those vixens wear low cut blouses to inflame the innocent males or they “mislead” men into thinking that they want their necks rubbed when what they really want is to have their breasts manhandled. The women are never demure or innocent in the eyes of their harassers.
The men we sued were always lying. But don’t take my word for it, take the juries’ words. We’ve never lost a jury verdict and, in all that time, I only refused to represent one woman because I thought she was exaggerating. Mostly the women underplayed what happened to them out of a sense of decency. The juries always believed the evidence and the women.
The harasser always attacks the woman first. She was, “always coming on to me.” If they see that isn’t working, they degrade her work performance and, when they see that approach failing too, charge her with misunderstanding and overreacting and being “too sensitive.”
But the point is: The men all talked and acted just like Clarence Thomas and their stories were improbable on their face and melted in the heat of the evidence. If Anita Hill was such a lousy employee why did Thomas hire her twice? For the hoped-for sex or because she really was a good employee? He loses no matter how he answers that question. If that Washington law firm fired her, why did the partner in charge of her employment make it clear that she was a fine employee and was not asked to leave? If she wasn’t a demure conservative religious woman why did Oral Roberts University hire her as a law professor and why did Liberty University ask her to stay when it bought Oral Roberts University? I’m sorry Professor Hill didn’t hire me to sue him. I would have enjoyed that trial. We would have won that one too.
I bet if you had Clarence Thomas over for dinner, he wouldn’t help with the dishes.
Note added October 3, 2007:
Here are a couple of editorials adding some to what I said in this post. The first one is from Anita Hill herself and I am glad that she is not sitting this one out. Her op-ed piece is here and here is one from today’s Washington Post.
UPDATE: October 20, 2010. Justice Thomas’s wife just can’t let go of this. Here is the latest blog post, this time on the call she made to Anita Hill last week.